Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson

The Emperor's SoulThe Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found this book unexpectedly on a random trip to the library. I thought I had covered Sanderson's published works fairly well by this point, so I was surprised to encounter this one.

I'm not sure I have a lot to say about it. It was everything I have come to expect from Brandon Sanderson. Intriguing, inventive, and enjoyable. I do think that he is too close to soul casting with this magic system, from an originality standpoint, but that bothers me ... not at all.

The most notable thing is that shortly after I picked up this book at the library, I started Arcanum Unbounded as an audiobook. Arcanum Unbounded is a collection of short stories by Sanderson with interesting introductions and post scripts relating them to the Cosmere, Brandon's fictional universe. The whole concept is amazing. Anyway, what is the first story in that collection? The Emperors Soul. So I'm double dipping a bit here, which also bothers me ... not at all.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks

The Sword of Shannara (The Original Shannara Trilogy, #1)The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was another re-read of a classic that got me into the fantasy genre decades ago. Time has shined new light on these classics as newer authors and works have explored and improved the genre. In many instances, this first Shannara book is a retelling of The Lord of the Rings. A multi-race (or species?) band of adventurers set out to find a magical artifact that can only be wielded by an unlikely hero. They have to travel through a mountain full of dead kings. The elves show up to narrowly save the day at a besieged fortress against a mountain. There is a fight between a thing of evil and the master magician/mentor and they fall into a fiery pit and are thought to be lost. You get the point.

Yet, it was fun. If I put aside the deja vu born of too much experience with the genre over the last 20-30 years, why not enjoy such a retelling? Why not go on another adventure, even if it is similar to others? So while I can't say I'm as excited by it as I once was, I appreciate both what it is, and the place it holds in the growth of fantasy fiction.

Finally, I think back to my fairly recent rereading of Terry Brooks' Magic Kingdom For Sale series (Books 1, 2, 3, 4, 5), and about the improvement in writing over the course of that series. The first 3 books were similar to this one in what I will call "quality", but as the series progressed and Brooks revisited the setting years later, the quality of story telling and writing was significantly better. I don't know when or if I'll get to the next Shannara book, and I know that it will be quite a while before I get to the newer Shannara books that might show similar progress, but I think I can expect that kind of lift over time, and so this early work gets a break overall in my opinion.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

The Art of WarThe Art of War by Sun Tzu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have had The Art of War on my To-Read list for years. It is a classic book about wartime strategy, as well as ancient Chinese philosophy. This specific edition is not just an English translation of the ancient work, but also includes commentary from 4 or 5 other translators throughout the centuries, citing examples from the Moorish wars, French Revolution, and even World War 2.

I feel that the content was valuable, given the history, but it was a little hard to follow. At face value, much of it seemed contradictory. Don't go fight doomed battles. If you throw your troops into doomed battles, they will win because they are desperate. Use trickery to win to save lives and reduce the cost of war. But don't be tricked by your opponent. And the advice goes on.

The best thing about this version of the book were the examples. By hearing the stories of generals that endeavored to apply the lessons from this book it made them real, and it is easier to see how they might be applied. At the same time, even in those examples I see where the other side still could have won, so while this is good advice, it doesn't seem to me to explain the outcomes of battles as thoroughly as it claims to.